Financial risk and inflexibility: part-time HE in decline

Butcher, John (2015). Financial risk and inflexibility: part-time HE in decline. Widening Participation and Lifelong Learning, 17(4) pp. 89–104.



The last special edition of this journal featured a range of articles exploring important issues around the impact of financial support on access to higher education, and subsequent persistence and achievement. The authors focussed on the unstated assumption that all HE students are full-time, and their findings implied that all students in need of financial support are 18 – 21 years old. In a UK context, this ignores the 28% of HE students who can only study part-time, a group disproportionately represented by mature students from disadvantaged backgrounds. This article draws on a UK-wide study of part-time learners in HE (Butcher, 2015) to argue that the financial challenges faced by part-time HE students, together with the inflexibilities in many university systems, contribute to the diminishing attraction of part-time study, and may play a significant role in the dramatic decline in part-time HE numbers in England, and to a lesser extent across the UK, since 2010.

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